Syosset’s #40 William Henry lifts teammate #10 Josh Elman who...

Syosset’s #40 William Henry lifts teammate #10 Josh Elman who scored the tying TD during Nassau High School Conference I football quarterfinal playoff game where Syosset defeated Hempstead 21-20 at Hempstead High School in Hempstead, New York on Nov. 5, 2022 Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Josh Elman knew the game was over when the ball left his quarterback’s hand.

The Syosset wide receiver found a soft spot in the left corner of the end zone, and quarterback Mustafa Mozawalla connected with the senior wideout for the go-ahead touchdown.

The 5-yard touchdown pass gave No. 6 seed Syosset its first lead of the game with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter. After trailing No. 3 seed Hempstead by 14 points at halftime, Syosset rallied to beat the Tigers, 21-20, on Saturday to advance to the Nassau Conference I semifinals.

“When (Mozawalla) threw me that final ball and I saw it in the air, I knew I was catching it,” Elman said. “I know he’s going to throw me the right ball every time. I trust my quarterback.”

Hempstead quarterback Jakkai Stith responded with what appeared to be a go-ahead, 56-yard touchdown run on the ensuing drive, but the referees called the play back for holding. Syosset prevented the Tigers from converting another first down and ran out the clock out once they regained possession.

Syosset (5-4), which beat Hempstead (6-3) in last year’s Nassau Conference I quarterfinals, will face Farmingdale in the county semifinals, where they lost to Oceanside last season..

“Whenever you get to the final four in Conference I it’s an accomplishment," Syosset coach Paul Rorke said, "so I’m really proud of our guys.”

Stith scored the first touchdown of the game with 1:33 to play in the first quarter, then hit Naeshawn Parsons streaking down the left sideline for a 35-yard touchdown throw on the final play of the first half.

Syosset retreated to the visitors’ locker room. The loss of senior wide receiver Carter Mandel, who injured his wrist in the first half and did not return, motivated them. They believed they could come back and win.

“We went in the locker room and (Rorke) said, ‘When adversity strikes we have to strike back,’ and I really think we did that,” Mozawalla said. “It shows what kind of team we are. I really think we’re special.”

Mozawalla hit Syosset wide receiver Nicholas Padula on a 7-yard slant route in the third quarter, then trudged eight yards into the end zone on the first play of the fourth to tie the score.

Dwayne Meadors reclaimed Hempstead’s lead on a 3-yard touchdown run with 7:18 left in the game. But the extra point failed when the snap fell short of the placeholder. The Tigers settled for a six-point lead.

Syosset scored the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing drive.

Mozawalla, running an option play, said he didn’t see Elman catch the ball because he was hit by a Hempstead defender. He said he threw the ball up and let his teammate make a play.

“We were able to execute that last play and give (Mozawalla) some space with the option to run or to throw it,” Rorke said. “He really didn’t have the option to run, they were covered, and he threw a really good ball to Josh.”

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